Derivatives, such as futures or options, are financial contracts which derive their value from a spot price, which is called the “underlying”. For example, wheat farmers may wish to enter into a contract to sell their harvest at a future date to eliminate the risk of a change in prices by that date. Such a transaction would take place through a forward or futures market. This market is the “derivatives market”, and the prices of this market would be driven by the spot market price of wheat which is the “underlying”. The term “contracts” is often applied to denote the specific traded instrument, whether it is a derivative contract in wheat, gold or equity shares. The world over, derivatives are a key part of the fi nancial system. The most important contract types are futures and options, and the most important underlying markets are equity, treasury bills, commodities, foreign exchange, real estate etc.
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